The under-fire Nelsinho Piquet has vowed to make his critics eat their words with a strong performance in Renault's updated R29 in the Hungarian Grand Prix next weekend – a race in which some had suggested he would not even be taking part.
The young Brazilian – who hung onto his seat at the Régie
by barely a thread for a second crack at the whip following an unconvincing debut campaign in the top flight last year – has yet to trouble the scorers in 2009, though he did achieve a breakthrough of sorts in out-qualifying double F1 World Champion team-mate Fernando Alonso for the first time ever for the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring last time out.
That notwithstanding, the son of former triple title-winner Nelson Piquet remains under pressure to retain his drive at the French outfit – led by the famously demanding Flavio Briatore – and knows he needs to make his mark with the new upgrade in Budapest if he is not to find himself rapidly out on his ear, with reserve driver Romain Grosjean waiting impatiently as an increasingly looming presence in the wings. Alonso has suggested that the improvements to the car have made it a podium challenger [see separate story – click here
] – now Piquet needs to live up to that.
“[The Nürburgring] wasn't an easy weekend as the weather kept changing, especially during qualifying,” explained the man who will turn 24 on qualifying day in Hungary. “It was good to get through to Q3, but then I had a poor start to the race and struggled to get heat into the hard tyres, which cost me a lot of places on the first lap. After that I pushed hard, but my car didn't have the new updates that Fernando had and it was difficult to make much progress or match Fernando's pace.
“I enjoyed Hungary last year, though, and it was probably one of my best races as I finished sixth. It's also a circuit where I won in GP2. Although there are no quick corners, it's a fun place to drive and the twisty layout makes it feel like a go-kart track. It's quite challenging, and you have to find the rhythm of the circuit and be accurate through the slow corners as the exit of one corner is the entry to the next. Any mistakes therefore cost you a lot of time.
“I should have the same upgrades as Fernando in Hungary, and I think I can be more competitive. As always I will be aiming to qualify in the top ten and hopefully score some points in the race. Qualifying will be vital as it's so tough to overtake at the Hungaroring because the braking zones are small and it's very dirty off-line, so it's important that we concentrate on getting the most from Saturday.”